Don’t limit yourself – that’s the advice from SwitchMetrics founder and CEO Lucy Friedman for fellow female entrepreneurs.
You would be mistaken if you thought the digital age means the demise of telephone calls and their importance to business. SMEs still rely on phones to reach out, connect and make sales, and the web now supports these interactions with click-to-call functionality.
But what the digital age demands is smart, data-based decision-making, which can be helped along with products such as SwitchMetrics and its ability to derive insights from your company’s telephone network.
CEO and founder Lucy Friedman has decades of experience and even helped introduce Europe to cloud-based telephony. She shared her journey as an entrepreneur with Siliconrepublic.com following the first Dell EMC Supper Club, part of a series of events planned for the coming year hosted by Dell EMC in collaboration with GirlCrew.
‘You can think of SwitchMetrics as Google Analytics but for telephone calls’
– LUCY FRIEDMAN, SWITCHMETRICS
Aisling Keegan, vice-president and general manager for Dell EMC Ireland, said: “We constantly receive feedback from female entrepreneurs about the value they derive from building a network with other women who are also driving their own businesses. The ability to exchange ideas and share success stories and challenges with other women can be invaluable.
“We decided to create the Dell EMC Supper Club in partnership with GirlCrew and we’ve had a great reaction to it so far. The club provides an opportunity for female entrepreneurs to gather together on a regular basis to share insights, ideas and experiences.”
What would be SwitchMetrics’ elevator pitch?
SwitchMetrics takes data that sits in the telephone network and turns it into valuable business insights for small and medium businesses; insights that enable them to grow their own revenues. If you tell a business how many calls they are missing, they will tell you how much money they have lost! You can think of SwitchMetrics as Google Analytics but for telephone calls. SwitchMetrics works on fixed lines, mobile networks and the internet, such as click-to-call on websites.
What is the technology and infrastructure behind it?
SwitchMetrics is a B2B2B SaaS (software-as-a-service) company. We develop and deliver our analytic dashboards from the cloud. We sell to telephone companies (fixed, mobile and internet), who then provide our dashboards to their business customers.
Was there a ‘eureka moment’ that inspired the idea or was it more of a gradual development?
I was part of the team that created Europe’s first cloud telephone solution 25 years ago and the kernel of the idea stems from this time. I saw that there was so much potentially useful data held within the telephone companies’ networks, but wasn’t made available to their business customers – the people that were actually missing calls.
People may have forgotten about telephone services in this age of the internet, so let’s remind them: how big is the market you’re targeting?
We estimate that, in Europe and the US, small and medium businesses spend €45bn every year on voice calls. And we expect that the volume of voice calls and interactions will increase as more and more business websites use click-to-call rather than webchat to engage and support their customers.
People are also using voice more and more with the introduction of the Apple Watch, where it is difficult to message because of its small size, and intelligent agents such as the Amazon Echo (which has already sold around 10m units).
What’s the best feedback you’ve had from an investor?
“I get what you are doing. That’s fantastic!”
And what was the worst?
Many investors have experienced the difficulties encountered when selling to telephone companies. They can be very slow to move and can be demanding of a start-up in terms of the people time they can take up.
How would you say your start-up is currently performing and what are your 2017 goals?
We have built our first product and are now taking it to customer trial. By the end of 2017, we hope to be preparing for full commercial launch.
Briefly describe your career journey so far.
I have over 30 years’ experience – selling, marketing and developing innovative voice services to end-business customers and into telcos – both established and in start-up mode, within national and global fixed and mobile telco service provider organisations. I received an MBA from Cranfield School of Management in the UK and was responsible for the definition of Europe’s first cloud PBX (telephone system) and contact centre service in the early 1990s. I also developed a groundbreaking service for Vodafone UK, which put telephone system features and landline numbers on business mobile devices in 2010 (One Net Express). This subsequently launched in Ireland and other Vodafone countries.
What have been some of the essential supports that have helped you on this journey?
SwitchMetrics was accepted into the NDRC LaunchPad start-up accelerator in September 2015, through which we received our first investment of €20,000. We managed to achieve this through the support earlier in 2015 of the Wicklow LEO, who were the first to believe and support us at a time when all we had was an idea and lots of vision and passion.
Wicklow LEO provided us with a grant that enabled us to develop our first rudimentary prototype. Since then, we have benefited from the female entrepreneur Starting Strong mentorship programme (part of Going for Growth). And, as our strategy developed during 2016, we were delighted to be accepted onto the EU Horizon 2020 StartUp ScaleUp pan-European internet of things accelerator, where we were joint winners of our regional hub’s pitch-off finale event.
In March this year, we secured our first Enterprise Ireland investment through the Competitive Start Fund and will be using these funds to progress through customer trial.
What would be your advice to other female founders out there?
As a percentage, female founders are in the minority, but there are still plenty of us out there. You can find us at the various meet-ups that take place, through GirlCrew Entrepreneurs or at events such as Inspirefest, which took place in Dublin between 6 and 8 July this year and “has diversity and inclusion at its heart”.
The Going for Growth entrepreneurship support initiative for businesswomen run by Paula Fitzsimons has been, and continues to be, a terrific education and support to us.
But don’t limit yourself to environments tailored for women. I’ve heard that many women only apply for the Female Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund – we were awarded ours on a general call.
The Dell EMC Supper Club series was developed to support female entrepreneurs as they work to grow their businesses and their networks. The events are designed to help female founders meet fellow entrepreneurs and share stories while also having the opportunity to speak with experts from Dell EMC on a range of topics including sales, management, logistics, legal advice, marketing and business development. The next Dell EMC Supper Club with GirlCrew is planned for August. Entrepreneurs looking to take part can find information through the Dell EMC social channels as well as through GirlCrew.